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  • Allison Stalker

A Majority of Areas in the US Are Meeting Air Quality Standards for Lead

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed a study on the lead contamination in the air. The study has determined that 39 states are meeting the national air quality standards for lead. These standards were strengthened in 2008, decreasing the standard to .15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air. This was a ten-fold difference from the previous standard.


The air-quality monitoring began in 2008 and the first round of designations was completed in November 2010. Based on this data, the EPA determined that Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Puerto Rico have one area each that does not meet the agency’s health standards for lead. Additionally, three areas in Tennessee, Arizona and New York were identified as “unclassifiable”. Further monitoring is necessary in these areas to confirm if they are meeting the standards.


In addition to the stricter standard, the EPA also located new monitors near sources known to produce large lead emissions. The measurements were completed in two rounds in order to accurately classify the areas. Data gathered between 2007 and 2009 showed 16 areas in 11 states that did not meet the standards for lead. Some of these measurement areas have been expanded to ensure that the entire area that is exceeding the standard is identified.

Since 1980, average lead concentrations in the air have dropped by 93% nationwide. This huge decrease is due mostly to the phase out of lead-in gasoline. However, lead in the air is still produced by numerous sources, including smelters, iron and steel foundries, and piston-engine aircraft operating on lead-in gasoline.


For the areas that do not meet the lead standard, the EPA is giving them 18 months to develop of plan of action and 5 years to reduce levels to below the lead standards.

Lead is dangerous to the human body once it is inhaled or ingested. It is especially dangerous for children, whose bodies are developing at a rapid pace. Lead exposure can lead to impairments in a child’s IQ, learning capabilities and behavior.


To learn more about the lead designations in your area, click here.

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